Neuroblastoma is a childhood cancer that forms in certain types of nerve tissue and most commonly arises in and around the adrenal glands, although it may also develop in other areas of the body where groups of nerve cells exist.
In a healthy baby, immature nerve cells (called neuroblasts) develop into functioning nerve cells, but in babies with neuroblastoma, mutated neuroblasts develop into tumors. Neuroblastoma accounts for approximately six percent of childhood cancers in the United States, with around 650 new cases diagnosed each year.
Symptoms of neuroblastoma include lumps or swellings in the belly; stomach pain; swelling of the legs or in the scrotum; bowel problems; headaches; dizziness; coughing; and swelling of the face, neck, arms, and chest. When it spreads, neuroblastoma may also cause enlarged lymph nodes, bone pain, weakness in the arms or legs, bruising around the eyes, and an increased susceptibility to infection.
Treatment of neuroblastoma depends on the stage of cancer, the age of the child and location of the tumor. Options include surgical removal of the tumor, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplants, and immunotherapies to boost the immune system and encourage it to target cancerous cells. Drug classes used to treat neuroblastoma are nitrogen mustard analogs, anthracyclines, and antineoplastic monoclonal antibodies.